Just FYI, the Wall of Sound was '74 (partially tested at the Cow Palace 3/23/74 and first loaded and scaffolded in Reno 5/12/74). This was the premier of the then-new Alembic system, which was so difficult and time-consuming to set up, that Owsley replaced it with a system that was more difficult and time-consuming to set up, was too expensive to transport and delayed shows. The Alembic PA was similar in that it didn't have line array stacks, instead using the forward-facing PA as the monitors (Alembic cabinets with a more horizontal array, sans the scaffolding - as you can see in '73 pix), and also tried separation of voicing via Macintosh groups (though not six like the Wall of Sound).
The 1st show of '73 was in Stanford's basketball arena (across the street from the Frost Amphitheater and "Bong concert hall") and the only time they played here (the floor was so spongy and problematic it actually injured athletes), which is why they didn't play Stanford in winter again (the Frost being outdoors). Even though the band originated here (in off-campus Palo Alto), it would be 9 years before they played Stanford again. But then they played the Frost 14 times in '82-'89. The Mapes is one of those legendary shows that was very commonly traded, and possibly the only '73 in your collection (in the days of magnetic tape racked inside a plastic shell - seems we all had this one). It came just 6 days before the equally-discussed (and superior) Madison show. My copy was no fucking Bertha master! It was all air and poor pitch.
The "history" shows aren't usually all that. This one has the 1st ever: Row Jimmy, Loose Lucy, Here Comes Sunshine, They Love Each Other, Eyes of the World, China Doll and Wave that Flag. The only other time that many songs were introduced was 2/18/71 Portchester. Jers tone was great with his Strat. Strats are considered "clean" but listen to how his tones are fatter than usual. The show is like a band practice session - Bobby admits as much at one point. If you're rooting around winter '73, you want to start with 2/15. If you want GOOD '73, go to the end of the year: 11/11, 11/14, 11/17, Boston run, San Diego.
First Set. The 1st set has new songs and takes chances but isn't one of the top sets of '73. It's more interesting for those that like the historical stuff/curiosity factor. Although Jer plays ready and active, there's a bit of a warm-up - never mind that every tweeter blew at the start of the song leaving a limited spectrum. The 1st Row Jimmy
has a nice tempo and Billy plays it punchy with a double bass drum beat that was monotonous until it evolved. The first they gel is for a snarly, funky Deal
. Me & My Uncle
- now they're in the groove, but the buggy sound is frustrating. Sugaree
was, actually, still evolving and IMO got much better in the late '70s. Looks Like Rain
is a good version but there are better '73s. Dig the early arrangement for Loose Lucy
- better? Maybe, but there's a lot of strumming and not knowing where to go. A funny thing about Beer Barrel Polka
: in his book Billy talks about hating the military march beat after growing up a few blocks from here (next to a military schools' drilling field). A good version for the trainspotters that go for such Funuculi ephemera. The rest is average '73. They played El Paso
67 times in '73 (including IN El Paso). Here Comes Sunshine
isn't quite what it became (11/30, 12/19).
Second Set. The set starts below-average on the details and though they were in the right rhythmic mood to break out They Love Each Other
, it's not 11/30 or 12/1. The remarkable one is the 1st Eyes of the World
, played astonishingly well and for 18 minutes! It's all packed and ready to use as a jam vehicle (after this one-off arrangement they would use another key in the jam). They started playing it every freaking night but kept Dark Star too. It's a unique version - they go in and out of these different jam sections. Another nailed 1st-timer, China Doll
also plays back with Bill's plodding kick which works here, adding a perfect punch usually lacking (he just had to keep it up until the right song came along!) The harmonies were never better. Bobby loses the thread in Big River
but Jer's happy to whittle. Ramble On Rose
is taut, strung along with a good counter-balanced, teetering solo. '73 was the biggest year for Box Of Rain
but this isn't one of the top ones, wobbling close to wreckage (though the vox were good in '73). Wave That Flag
is still embryonic before the verse rewrite (it was pulled from June '73 to Feb '74) - are some of these lyrics one-offs? Sugar Magnolia
- yup, that's the way Bobby played it in '73. Though there are dozens, this is up there (the way he walks up @3:45 - 3:50) and there's no Bobby-hoarse-screaming or Donna squelch™. That should have been it but there's more - a great Uncle John's Band
. I love it when Jer's solo sequences are inverted; either way this is letter-perfect. Around & Around
finds the '73 groove. Check @2:38 how he's ahead of the key change and lifts it up into place. Bobby didn't always do these verse fills on Casey Jones
(though it's otherwise average).
Overall = 3 Stars
Deal - But isn't it usually good?
Eyes of the World - A unique, entertaining version
China Doll - Also unique; punchy, tight
Sugar Magnolia - Great example of '73 SugarMag
Uncle John's Band- Pulled-off pat
Around & Around - rave-up party version
SOURCES: Surprisingly there's no Miller; but there is a Bertha so there! (the ashley.12571
sounds best). The are no Auds for gap-patching. See rshannon (below) for wonderful back-story.